Police And Racial Profiling Essay

3299 words - 13 pages

Can we stop the unjust practice of racial profiling? Is it correct for Police Officers to stop a black driver for an alleged traffic offense to question and sometimes search the black driver? These questions provoke the need to understand racial profiling and racism along with what problems are involved and the possible solutions. Doesn't the use of race make sense? Isn't it really just good police work? The guarantee to all persons of equal protection under the law is one of the most fundamental principals of our democratic society. Our government must continue to evaluate the facts and take appropriate action to resolve this controversial issue.

Ever since the late 1970's profiling was associated with a method of interdicting drug traffickers (Data Collection Resource Center, n.d., para 3). The profiling provided not only a quick way to see evidence of concealment in the vehicle, but included age and race characteristics of possible drivers (Data Collection Resource Center, n.d., para 3). The controversy is over whether or not there are a disproportionate number of blacks and Hispanics involved with law enforcement that reflects police racism or is it merely the outcome of disproportionate minority crime (MacDonald, 2003, pg. 9). MacDonald (2003, p. 9) reported the high rates of minority stops and arrests do not accurately reveal racism was the cause. In the past our society has labeled this problem as being prejudice or a racist, but now there is a new term. "Minorities refer to it as DWB, driving while black. Politicians call it racial profiling." (Sweeney, n.d.).

It is critical to understand the uses of profiling to determine if it is being used improperly. There are two types of profiling methods. Hard profiling uses race alone, as the only factor in determining if a person is being criminally suspicious. For example, if a black man is seen carrying a television set in a predominately black neighborhood and an officer decides that he is suspicious. Soft racial profiling uses race as one factor among others in judging criminal suspiciousness. An example of soft profiling is using known data that a black drug lord who favors driving Honda Accords is moving cocaine from the Northeast area of Florida to the Southeast (MacDonald, 2001, para 4). With this information an officer pulls over a speeding Honda accord that also happens to have a black driver. The officer exercises awareness in looking for any signs of drugs while issuing the traffic ticket (Mac Donald, 2003, Pg 10).

The act of profiling leads officer's to detect a potential criminal, but also to perform searches. An officer's decision to search a vehicle is unlike the profiling one that made them decide to pull over a vehicle. A police officer uses a wealth of clues before asking permission to search a vehicle. One clue is a driver's demeanor. "Officer Lennon recalls having stopped a white guy in a pick-up truck having a camper compartment on top...

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